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REVIEW: George Adie: A Gurdjieff Pupil in Australia
From Dr Helen S. Farley, School of History, Philosophy, Religion and Classics at the University of Queensland Brisbane, Australia

Born in England at the end of Queen Victoria’s reign, George Adie, former stockbroker, architect and teacher, taught Gurdjieff’s ideas from 1966 to 1989. A delicate constitution, precipitated by the unnecessary removal of a substantial portion of his lungs, necessitated his removal to a clime more agreeable; thus he moved to Australia with his wife, Helen, in 1966. Joseph Azize was a pupil of Adie’s in Sydney from 1981 until his death. This volume, George Adie: A Gurdjieff Pupil in Australia, is an edited collection of Adie’s teachings, meeting transcripts and observations on the relationships with his pupils, much of it in his own words, placed into context by Azize’s biographical exposition, commentary and descriptions of the interactions within this group.

There are numerous books about Gurdjieff and his most well-known associates but there are very few about the heritage of his tradition after his death in 1949. Certainly, this is the first book about the legacy of his system in Australia. Though this book is not about Gurdjieff’s work per se, it does present an alternative interpretation and exposition. As Azize readily admits, this is not a book suitable as an introduction to the philosophies of Gurdjieff, though it would hardly be appropriate for these themes to be overlooked. And indeed they are not, being carefully woven into the text where appropriate. Instead, it is a presentation of the practical application and challenges inherent in the adoption of Gurdjieff’s scheme but most importantly, it describes Adie’s own experiences, teachings and development of the system.

To read this book from cover to cover is a discomfiting though not unrewarding task, mostly because of the numerous changes of theme and context, but as a work to dip into as the mood takes you, it is a delightful treasure-trove of thought-provoking insights; each section, particularly in Part II, just sufficient to focus a thought and facilitate understanding. I would predict that for this quality alone, the contents will reward several close rereadings.

Azize presents the material with a practised impartiality; his purpose merely to elaborate the concepts, avoiding any self-aggrandisement by not casting himself as too prominent a character in this account. He is a grateful participant, one among many, but no more than that; sometimes portrayed with unflattering honesty. This gives the book a certain credibility; distinguishing it as an account of an affectionate but still critical observer. George Adie comes across as an exceptional person but he remains quite human. With a deft hand, Azize communicates Adie’s wisdom and intuitive understanding of the unconscious but self-defeating motives of his students, as he patiently brings each to realisation. It is a very compassionate portrayal, showing how Adie, even as he struggled with ill health, sought every opportunity to become truly conscious and to aid others to the same end. The unique formulation of the transcripts gives insights both into his ideas and the very human struggle with those concepts. Rather than a mere exposition, it eloquently demonstrates that the path to consciousness and the shrugging off of ‘waking sleep’ is both arduous and confusing. Interspersed with these explorations are Adie’s charming and insightful accounts of his meetings with Gurdjieff and Ouspensky.

Joseph Azize has successfully straddled that perilous territory between academic objectivity and active participation, deftly managing to reconcile these often hostile viewpoints. George Adie: A Gurdjieff Pupil in Australia will prove invaluable to both academics concerned with the Western mystical tradition, particularly the elaboration of that tradition in contemporary Australia, and those embarked on a more personal quest. This is an important contribution to the much understudied area of esotericism and philosophy of consciousness in Australia.



March 3, 2008 at 5:19 pm